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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tree of Life

I was wondering if Terrence Malick's new movie was going to have the dreamy, ponderous voiceovers that he's known for, and yep...looks like it. His style takes some getting used to, but it's worth it.

That's What I Said

Last night I left this comment on this post about DADT over at Outside the Beltway:
I watched Restrepo last night. Good flick. Highly recommended.

Among the many thoughts that occurred to me as I watched the movie is that it’s borderline insulting to argue that our soldiers wouldn’t be able to handle a DADT repeal. They deserve more credit than that.

Let’s face it, the soldier distracted by his brother’s sexual orientation….just isn’t a very good soldier. He’s the one that should be kicked out.
Not long after, Doug Matconis writes this post and concludes it with:
[General Amos’s] belief that these professional trained soldiers would be so profoundly disturbed by [gays already serving in the military] that they would be unable to perform their jobs strikes me as being an insult to the troops themselves.
At least we agree!

Adverbs Are Bad, continued

Here's a dude who uses too many unnecessary adverbs:
It really does a good job of humanizing these guys and stays completely away from politics. But I do have a few (semi-political) observations, which thankfully the film's "I'm not telling you what to the think" tone allows me to make.
Really? Completely? Thankfully?

Man, who writes this crap? Oh...that's right. Me!

Best Description of Josh McDaniel's Reign

He took a playoff-caliber team, stripped it of its talent, and reduced it to mediocrity.
- Weston Gentry

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ya Think?

I was wrong for trying to push this issue within the Army.
-Lt. Col. Terrence Lakin, who was court-martialed for refusing to deploy to Afghanistan because he wants to see the vault copy of Obama's birth certificate.

It can't be claimed that this dude doesn't stand up for what he believes, but that's not saying much when you believe something utterly stupid. To be willing to go to jail and ruin your career because of some talk radio conspiracy theory? Not very bright...

This Could Have Ended Badly

There's some wicked curves this guy attacks at high speeds. This is not a closed course, either.

Of course, I post this video so you can listen to "Boss Hog" by Sasquatch, my new favorite band. Love this song.

Restrepo

I watched a great documentary on Netflix this morning called Restrepo. It's kind of a year in the life of an airborne company fighting in Afghanistan's Kongerol valley.

It really does a good job of humanizing these guys and stays completely away from politics. But I do have a few (semi-political) observations, which thankfully the film's "I'm not telling you what to the think" tone allows me to make.

1) I think John McCain (and all the others) are horribly mistaken if they doubt these guys' ability to serve with gay people. Not only are these soldiers more than capable of getting past such pettiness, I think it's an insult to them to think they can't.

The bonds of brotherhood are on full display here, and they run deeper than vestigial prejudice.

2) What we're doing in Afghanistan is a fool's errand. There's a scene in the film where the company's captain is meeting with all the village elders, all of them old guys with dyed red beards, bad teeth, skinny frames. The captain's trying to work with them, win over their hearts and minds, and he's saying things like, "That's why we want to bring those projects in, build roads, provide jobs. We're going to flood this valley with money."

And while I'm watching this, I'm thinking, "This sales pitch would be great if you were making it to an American." We value things like jobs and modern development. We hear that stuff and our eyes light up.

But look at that old guy. You think what he wants is a job? You think he wants you to pave a road to his valley? Certainly doesn't look like it. It looks like he wants you to leave so he can beat his wife and have sex with his goat.

Has anyone else seen this yet? Thoughts?

Conquest of Paradise

One of my favorite "bad" movies is the Christopher Columbus epic 1492: Conquest of Paradise. It's an objectively bad movie that flopped terribly when it came and, as far as I know, has never been released on DVD in the States.

But I love it.

It's too long, it's boring, it's way too gruesome, it's outright silly in some parts, it's not historically accurate, and it stars Gerard Depardieu. That last one, I think, is why the movie utterly fails. You have a Frenchman playing an Italian who worked for the Spanish...and he's speaking English.

The problem: Gerard Depardieu can't speak English. Ridley Scott insisted Depardieu play his Columbus, but he should have also insisted the movie be in French (or more appropriately, Spanish) or at the very least, that Depardieu's lines be overdubbed by another actor.

It might not have been a big hit, but it probably would have been a better movie.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Intellectual Dishonesty

Megan McArdle is a constant source of amusement. Style-wise, she's one of those writers who punches up her stuff with a lot of adverbs* but content-wise, she's just a lazy thinker who comes to a conclusion then comes up with reasons why she came to that conclusion. (You know, the opposite of how the process is intended to work.) And then, when her conclusion has some holes in it, or is obviously wrong, she doesn't modify it...she just comes up with new reasons why she was right all along.

Example:
On a reading of the commerce clause that allows the government to force you to buy insurance from a private company, what can't the government force you to do?
This is a familiar argument you will hear from libertarianish types who don't seem to get that the insurance mandate, as onerous as it is, isn't the "government forcing you to buy insurance" any more than the mortgage interest tax deduction is "forcing you to buy a house."

That's because they've already decided that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and bad and should have never been implemented, so instead of arguing all the reasons why the mandate is bad or may not work, they get to just change the terms, decide the case before it gets to the Supreme Court, and fucking win!

Now with that said, there are some decent arguments against the insurance mandate** but this "You can't make me buy health insurance" crap is not one of them.


* Egregious example from the above-quoted post: "Personally, I kind of doubt that, but this is completely beside the point." One sentence, two adverbs, neither of which add anything to the sentence. And yes, I realize that people talk like this. I also recognize that a lot of the "ums" and "uhs" and other verbal tics common in speech are usually removed from writing. This is because when you speak, information is being conveyed with tone, volume, facial expressions, et cetera. On the page, it's word choice alone.

** Here's two off the top of my head: A) It makes the insurance industry inextricable from the healthcare industry, not exactly a good development if cost-cutting is your goal. After all, you're not just paying for your healthcare when you go to the doctor; you're also paying your insurance company's overhead. B) It will negatively affect those who it intended to help. If you can't afford health insurance, logic tells you that you can't afford this tax either. If you have health insurance (which is the goal of most rational people) you don't have to pay the tax, so whining about it is...well, nice in principle but a little weird, right? (Well, considering that whining about taxes you will never have to pay is kind of a hobby on the right, maybe it's not so weird after all.)

Prediction for the Internets

Nobody will ever beat Brett Favre's starting streak. Nobody.

Adverbs Are Bad

I found this piece of atrocious writing and it hurt my eyes. From an account of a one-night stand with failed Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell:
When her underwear came off, I immediately noticed that the waxing trend had completely passed her by.

Obviously, that was a big turnoff, and I quickly lost interest. I said goodnight, rolled over, and went to sleep.
Content aside, let's just say I'm glad this guy is so eager to modify his verbs because without all the adverbs, I wouldn't know what he was talking about.

"I immediately noticed..." You mean, you didn't have to wait until your eyes adjusted in the dark? It didn't take a second or two? It was immediate. Good to know..

"Completely passed her by..." As opposed to, partially passing her by or mostly passing her by. No, the passing was complete.

"Obviously, that was a big turnoff..." Um, sorry, dude, but it's not at all obvious why you find hairy pussies a big turnoff. You're gay? You're a child molester? You're a shallow prick?

"I quickly lost interest..." Wait, how quickly? Like...immediately?

Of course, maybe I'm being unfair, attacking this dude for his writing ability. His real crime is obviously being a douchebag.

Making Sense

Not sure who this Dan Barber guy is, but here he is explaining why vegetarianism is woefully naive. This is from a talk so it's a bit unpolished, but I think he makes some great points.
There is no healthy ecological system that I’ve ever seen that doesn’t include animals — there just doesn’t. Because the manure from the animals is a free, free ecological resource that amends the soil that gives you better-tasting and healthful vegetables. That’s been around since the beginning of time. So to say that vegetarians live on this higher plane of ethics (and I’m not here to argue that slaughtering animals doesn’t carry with it some weight), but you have blood on your hands when you eat vegetarian as well, especially if you’re in the northeast. Because your food is coming from somewhere, and your calories are coming from somewhere in the winter, and if they’re traveling hundreds of miles, and in many cases thousands of miles, you are burning fossil fuels to get them there, and generally they’re produced in monocultures, and that has a huge cost on natural living systems. They might not be animals that you and I can identify with, but they’re insects and bugs and whole types of flora and fauna that are dying to produce those vegetables.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's My Party, I Can Cry If I Want To

Sometimes I feel bad for Elizabeth Hasselbeck. She's got that problem that a lot of partisans (both left and right) have; their political loyalties short circuit their cognitive functioning.

In the most generous assessment of John Boehner's crybaby act, Barbara Walters says he has an "emotional problem." I'd agree with that (if I thought the tears were genuine).

But then, listen to Hasselbeck spinning for her boy Boehner:
"Let's not crucify a man for getting emotional. He's probably a fine man who cares and if he wants to give small businesses tax breaks so they can hire somebody so they can have a job...you can't just brush him like that and say that he's a bad guy."
Seriously...poor girl.

Boehner is getting "crucified" not for getting emotional, but because he always gets emotional. And at the slightest provocation! It was touching...the first time. And crying at the mere mention of school children?

I guess I'm just insensitive, but my reaction to that is "What the hell is your problem?" The instinct to hand him a tissue and coo, "Let it all out, big guy. That's right, wash all that hurt out," well, that just doesn't exist.

And you know, John Boehner may be a fine man who just wants to help out small businesses. But there are other fine men out there who also want to help small businesses that are a little more able to keep it together.

One of those guys should be Speaker of the House. Not this sad clown...

The Write Name

The other day I came up with a story. Notice I didn't say "I wrote a story" because I'm still writing it and there's no guarantees that I'll ever finish it or it will ever become, you know, A Story.

I already started fooling around with the idea and things were going well. I'm typing and typing and thinking and typing and then I looked up, and there were three pages staring back at me, which is a good sign. It may actually turn into something...

But I had to come up with a name for a female character, and for some reason I hit on Missy. Missy what, though? Even if I'm never going to use her last name in the story, I have to give her one. That's when I hit on Missy Eliot.

That's perfect! I thought. And then it started to sound a bit familiar... So Missy Eliot is now Missy Eccleston. Yeah, I'm going to change that again...

This Is Your Majority Speaker

John Boehner gave an interview on 60 Minutes and, of course, he cried...

This can go one of two ways. Either John Boehner is an emotional wreck who starts tearing up at the slightest provocation.

Or he's a manipulative little prick who cries a few tears to cover up his lack of sincerity.

So there ya go, he's a weepy wimp or an insincere fake. You pick.

Living At Home

I'm somewhat obsessed with paying my mortgage. It's the first thing I do every payday, I always pay extra, and when I can, I throw some extra "extra" at it. I've gamed out the various scenarios that will ensure maximum money-savings. I know my current balance to the nearest dollar ($107,380) and my pay-off date (March of 2030 if I never pay any extra principal...but fat chance of that!*).

But the last couple of years, I've been wondering if I made a foolish decision. And then I saw this chart...





* My goal is to pay it off by 2020, hence all the extra.

Deal With the Devil

When you ditch the oversimplified, self-serving mythology presented by politicians seeking election, you can take a look at things as they are and you realize that not only are the myths wrong but that things are actually a bit more complex than we realize.

For instance, tax breaks for filming.

The last few years, there have been a lot of big-budget studios, as well as some smaller firms, producing film and television products in New Mexico. The reason?

Not a sudden demand for New Mexico's distinctive scenery. No, it would be a sudden demand for all the tax breaks and incentives provided by the New Mexico Film Commission. A 25% tax rebate! Interest-free loans of up to $15 million! No state sales tax! Credits for hiring journeymen employees!

When it comes to attracting runaway film productions, this kind of thing works. It lowers costs for the filmmaker and it brings productions to a state that otherwise wouldn't get them. But it's not without its downside.

For America's stingy tax payers, who are reluctant to pay for things like libraries, road construction, and a proper education for their kids, it seems strange they would be willing to pony up millions to invest in the notoriously volatile film production business.

And then there's this:
The Texas Film Commission has denied a tax incentive to director Robert Rodriguez's Troublemaker Studios for their production of Machete, the Mexploitation film set in that state which was shot in Austin in the summer of 2009. The letter cited part of the code that says incentives can be denied to films "because of inappropriate content or content that portrays Texans or Texas in a negative fashion."
Hmmm, maybe I'm just thinking too much here.

If the tax break policy was designed to encourage filmmakers to produce their films in Texas, doesn't this "you must also show Texas in a decent light" requirement tend to undermine that? After all, "Texas wants filmmakers" is going to get a lot more responses than "Texas wants filmmakers who are willing to make government-approved pro-Texas propaganda."

And this is leaving aside the question of whether Machete "portrays Texans or Texas in a negative fashion," which is pure bullshit. If you've seen the film, you'll know Texas and her Texans actually come off in a good light. It's the crooked politicians that don't come out looking so good. But no matter...

If the Texas Film Commission wants veto authority on content, then it might be best to just move your production to New Mexico...which is, like, the opposite of the Texas Film Commission's goal.